Dr Mirre J P Simons

Ageing is one of the most interesting, yet least understood, universal aspects of life. We study the biology of ageing using a combined biomedical and evolutionary perspective using theoretical, comparative, epidemiological and meta-analytic methods.

Empirical work is focussed on the genetics of ageing and diet responses using fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Highly quantitative and tailored experiments are needed to understand ageing, the key to understand many areas of biology and with obvious applications in medical science.

University of Sheffield staff profile.

Research technicians

Laura Hartshorne

Laura is our full-time technician responsible for fly stock maintenance, media preparation (crucial for diet manipulations and GeneSwitch experiments) and making sure we are all organised and new people are trained to our standards. She further conducts our RNA and protein work and imageing efforts. She is also conducting her own research into the connection between diet and neurodegenerative disease.

Gracie Adams

Gracie has now joined us as a full-time technician supporting the lab in many areas. She will also lead our DNA fingerprinting efforts of isofemale fly lines we are generating. Her love is birds, but flies do fly.

Eleanor Phillips

Eleanor did her L4 with us working on mTor sighnalling, DR and immunity. She is currently supporting out work doing infection experiments and microinjection.

Postdocs / RAs

Dan Hayman

Dan is back now working with Iwan Evans (Medical School) and co-hosted in our group working on immunosenescence. 

Previously: Dan is an undergraduate studying microbiology and genetics, and spent a summer with us working on genetics of the connections between diet, fecundity and locomotive behaviour. He is currently following up candidate genes. Dan recently got selected for the integrated MSc/PhD program of CIMA.

PhD students

Sarah Gautrey

After doing her third year project and MBiolSci fourth year project in our lab Sarah has now continued to work with us to do her PhD. She is funded by the Faculty of Science in conjunction with the Sir Henry Dale award. The title of her project is 'The mechanisms of dietary restriction: Insights from comparative and functional genetics'.

Katie Roome

Katie joined us in 2022 to work on immunosenescene co-supervised with Iwan Evans (Medical School). She is funded by the DiMEN DTP.


Former members

Andrew McCracken (PhD student)

Andy utilises the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) to understand the genetics and evolution of the demography of mortality. Some lines show rapid acceleration in mortality, whereas the mortality of other lines only marginally increases with age. Experiments of DGRP go up to 100,000 individual flies and yield us data to fit GWAS and evolutionary and demographic theories to. Andy is supported by the NERC ACCE Doctoral training program.

Alexander Charles (PhD student)

Alex started his PhD in October 2017 (co-supervised with Dr Toni Gossmann) on hyper-omics to understand how diet reduces ageing. He will develop novel statistics to combine the transcriptome, proteome and metabolome of flies on different diets. Combined inference from multiple omics will be a powerful tool to understand complex biology and will require optimised statistical approaches. Alex is supported by the Leverhulme CABM.

Callum Thompson

Callum is our second Sheffield Hallam University placement student. Callum is leading a large effort in the lab to generate recombinant inbred families from wild caught isofemales lines.

Emily Denham

Emily was our third Sheffield Hallam University placement student. Emily worked on neurodegeneration and measured lifespan from the panel of recombinant inbred strains we made in our lab.

Harriet Hamber-Stott

Harriet is a biomedical student from Sheffield Hallam University. Following her placement with us last year, she is currently supporting the lab as a technician for a day a week.

Chris Fitzpatrick

Chris is doing her MRes project with us. She focusses on phosphate regulation and lifespan using the DGRP. In addition, she investigates the instant transcriptional responses to diet using qPCR.

Camille Lee-Own

Camille is a fourth year MBiolSci student and works on the connection between functional senescence and mortality. To assess function she has adapted the walking (negative geotaxis) assay in flies to our demography cages. She uses DGRP and diet as experimental approaches.

Suzan Trooster

Suzan is an ERASMUS student from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her work focusses on mTor signalling in flies. She uses the GeneSwitch system to manipulate mTor signalling throughout development and in adulthood only.

James Cowell

James is doing a maths undergraduate degree and is doing a NERC funded REP summer placement with us working on Bayesian methods for fitting demography (co-supervised with Dr Michael Spence).

Aaron Kirkby

Aaron was our first apprentice technician. He now has a technician job within the University.

Kang-Wook Kim

Kang-Wook (co-supervised with Professor Terry Burke and Dr Toni Gossmann) works on the genetics of ageing using bioinformatics. He supports our genome wide association studies and molecular evolution approaches.

Research gate profile

Eleanor Buckle

Eleanor is working with Andy (PhD student) on the connection between water consumption and the diet longevity response across a range of DGRP genotypes. To get at the mechanisms involved she will use metabolomics. Eleanor is supported by the SURE scheme from the University of Sheffield.

Jess Thomson

Jess joined us in the summer of 2018 from Oxford University testing a range of candidate genes we have for longevity using GeneSwitch-RNAi. In addition she worked with a model for proliferative disease and studied connections to diet. She was supported by a bursary from Oxford for undergraduates from Cornwall.

Nick Jones

Nick is our apprentice technician. He helps us maintain stock, cook and dispense food (former experience as a chef helps!) and assists in experiments, scoring demography, doing crosses and counting offspring. Nick left us for a full-time job at the fly facility in Biomedical Sciences, Sheffield.

Felix Peck

Felix is an MBiolSci student doing his fourth year project with us. He will push ahead some of the specific mutants we want to make in the lab using CRISPR. His work also involves diet and ageing and looking at the regulation of some highly diet-responsive genes using qPCR.

Joe Partington-Smith

Joe is a second year undergraduate in our department and has worked with us over the summer screening for developmental time using drugs we are interested in. This work is continuing and he is continuing to help us gather and analyse data.

Dieneke van Doesburg

Dieneke has joined us for an internship from the Netherlands. She is studying for her biology degree at the HAS University. In a technical role, Dienke is supporting various aspects of the lab working with Gracie, Callum and Laura. She is further following up work from Chris analysing the micronutrient composition of flies in response to DR.